By Ron D'Ambrosio, CEO, Glacier Computer
Engineering consumer-grade tablets is defined for a set of specifications suited to usage by the average consumer. Consumers use tablets to surf the web, play
games, check email, read books, and Skype. Tablets are typically used in climate controlled, carpeted environments and when they are dropped on concrete, their extended service
contract covers repairs outside the standard warranty. Consumer expectations about quality and design are aligned with the manufacturers tablet design. If a consumer uses his tablet on a chairlift while skiing and it doesn't work
because it is frozen, he doesn't call Best Buy and demand that his tablet work in sub-zero conditions. Expectations between the end user and manufacturer are completely different
in the commercial space.
Commercial tablet customers want a device that runs fast, takes abuse, and works in their environment, no matter how harsh. Engineering for rugged portable tablets starts at the component level and moves outward through the power supply, housing, display, and docking stations. Processor speed needs to be fast enough to handle a typical workload, but also able to handle heat dissipation and limit battery
drain. Batteries must accommodate multiple hours of use, be hot swappable, and quickly charge in vehicle docks. The housing
needs to withstand 3 to 6 ft drops to asphaltcovered parking lots and daily vibration loads while docked in a moving vehicle. Ingress protection against moisture and fine articles is standard and rated with at least an IP54 rating. Military standard specifications are also common and required by many companies, but components needed to meet those standard
specifications are more expensive and drive up overall costs. Displays are treated with anti-shatter and anti-glare technology. Working outside requires a sunlight readable
display. Additional I/O ports and vehicle docking stations are also part of the total engineering process and costs. All of these additional features need to be designed into the product and that flexibility drives up cost over a consumer-grade product.